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Publication numberUS20050057364 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/948,000
Publication date17 Mar 2005
Filing date6 Sep 2001
Priority date6 Mar 1999
Also published asDE19909986A1, DE19909986C2, DE50014514D1, EP1159169A1, EP1159169B1, US6975390, WO2000053466A1
Publication number09948000, 948000, US 2005/0057364 A1, US 2005/057364 A1, US 20050057364 A1, US 20050057364A1, US 2005057364 A1, US 2005057364A1, US-A1-20050057364, US-A1-2005057364, US2005/0057364A1, US2005/057364A1, US20050057364 A1, US20050057364A1, US2005057364 A1, US2005057364A1
InventorsAnton Mindl, Frank Blasing, Thomas Weber
Original AssigneeLeopold Kostal Gmbh & Co.Kg
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Optoelectronic monitoring device for a motor vehicle
US 20050057364 A1
Abstract
A motor vehicle optoelectronic monitoring device includes a sensor, imaging systems, a shutter, and a controller. Each sensor element outputs a sensor element signal based on the intensity of a light signal received by the sensor element. Each imaging system is associated with a sensor region and illuminates an object to monitor the object. Two sensor regions associated with two respective imaging systems partially overlap one another. Each imaging system illuminates the sensor elements of the associated sensor region with a light signal indicative of the object being monitored. The controller controls the shutter unit to selectively enable and disable illumination of the sensor by the imaging systems. The controller processes the sensor element electric signals output by the sensor elements in response to illumination by an imaging system to determine conditions of the object being monitored by the imaging system.
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Claims(8)
1. An optoelectronic monitoring device for a motor vehicle, the device comprising:
a sensor having a plurality of sensor elements, wherein each sensor element outputs a sensor element electric signal as a function of the intensity of a light signal received by the sensor element;
a plurality of imaging systems each being operable for illuminating a respective object in order to monitor the respective object, wherein each imaging system is associated with a region of the sensor, wherein at least two sensor regions associated with at least two respective imaging systems partially overlap one another, wherein each imaging system illuminates the sensor elements of the associated sensor region with an imaging system light signal indicative of the respective object being monitored;
a shutter unit arranged between the plurality of imaging systems and the sensor for enabling and disabling illumination of the sensor by the plurality of imaging systems; and
a controller for controlling the shutter unit to selectively enable and disable illumination of the sensor by the plurality of imaging systems, wherein the controller processes the sensor element electric signals output by the sensor elements in response to illumination by an imaging system in order to determine conditions of the object being monitored by the imaging system.
2. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the controller controls the shutter unit electrically by electro-optical means.
3. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the sensor elements are arranged in a two-dimensional array.
4. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the size of the sensor is determined by the largest sensor region associated with an imaging system, wherein the sensor regions associated with the other imaging systems are contained within the largest sensor region.
5. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the shutter unit is a liquid-crystal shutter unit.
6. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the shutter unit is an electro-chromic shutter unit.
7. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the shutter units includes a plurality of shutter fields each associated with a respective imaging system, wherein the shutter fields are operable between an on position for enabling the associated imaging systems to illuminate the sensor and an off position for disabling the associated imaging systems from illuminating the sensor.
8. The device of claim 1 wherein:
the controller controls an actuator associated with an object being monitored by an imaging system as a function of the determined conditions of the object.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This is a continuation of International Application PCT/EP00/00182, with an international filing date of Jan. 13, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an optoelectronic monitoring device for a motor vehicle.

2. Background Art

Such a monitoring device is known from, e.g., EP 0 832 798 A2. This monitoring device is used as a rain sensor and includes an imaging system for imaging water drops on a section of the windshield of a motor vehicle onto a camera sensor. The imaging system has a lens pointed from the interior of the motor vehicle towards the windshield. The lens is focused on the detected windshield section. The camera sensor is positioned in the region of the interior rearview mirror looking forward in the direction of travel. The detected image data is evaluated by a processing unit. The processing unit controls a wiping motor as a function of the detected image data.

With the imaging system and the camera sensor, it is only possible to detect water drops on the windshield of a motor vehicle. In the automotive field, optical sensors are also used to detect additional optical information. For example, such sensor systems can be applied to the detection of the position of the sun, to the control of headlights, or to the monitoring of the motor vehicle interior. All of these systems use photoelectric sensor arrays and corresponding imaging systems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Starting with this discussed state of the prior art, the object of the present invention is based on disclosing an optoelectronic monitoring device that allows different optical information to be detected by various optical sensor systems.

This object is realized according to the present invention by an optoelectronic monitoring device for a motor vehicle, where this device comprises:

    • several optical imaging systems that are associated with different objects to be monitored and whose outputs are incident on the photosensitive surface of a common photoelectric sensor array which comprises a plurality of photoelectric converter elements forming individual pixels, and each converter element generates an electric signal corresponding to the light intensity as a function of the received light, wherein the output of each imaging system is arranged on a region of the photosensitive surface of the sensor array for imaging the optical information prepared by this imaging system, and this region at least partially overlaps the illuminated regions of the other imaging systems,
    • a shutter unit that is arranged in the beam path of each imaging system and that can be electrically controlled by means of an electro-optical effect for controlling illumination of the photosensitive surface of the sensor array by this imaging system, and
    • a controller that receives the electrical output signals of the sensor array for controlling the shutter unit, for evaluating the optical information, and for controlling actuators as a function of the result of evaluating the information associated with the object.

Due to the monitoring device according to the present invention, which includes several imaging systems that are advantageously carried by a common holder, this monitoring device can be used for the different optical systems by using a single sensor array. Possible imaging systems are image-forming systems, such as lenses, or light-transmitting systems. A certain converter element group of the sensor array can be allocated to the output of each imaging system, so that it is possible for there to be a clear allocation of certain group signals to certain imaging systems, and thus to certain optical information to be detected. The converter element group of the sensor array allocated to an imaging system at least partially overlaps that of another imaging system. Thus, it is advantageous for the size of the sensor array to be defined by the largest imaging size required by an imaging system, and for all additional imaging systems to also illuminate the photosensitive surface of the sensor array in this region. This has the consequence that the size of the sensor array, where preferably a camera sensor chip is used, can be designed correspondingly small in spite of the numerous sets of optical information imaged on the array.

For clocking the illumination of the sensor array by the individual imaging systems, an electronically controlled shutter is mounted in the beam path of each imaging system. The shutter unit operates by means of an electro-optical effect and thus can be designed functionally, e.g., as a liquid-crystal shutter or according to an electrochromic principle. The clocked imaging of optical information for different imaging systems on the sensor array can be used as coding for identifying the optical information of a certain imaging system. In contrast with coding by a converter element group allocated to a certain imaging system, an allocation of the received optical information to an imaging system can be independent of the actual region of the sensor array illuminated by the imaging system.

The individual imaging systems are combined in the region of the photoelectric sensor array advantageously into a discrete unit and fixed on the circuit carrier of the sensor array, so that the sensor array is held in a fixed position relative to the outputs of the imaging systems.

By equipping a photoelectric sensor array used in a motor vehicle with a lens as one of the imaging systems, the system can be used to detect image-forming information. Therefore, such a system can be used, e.g., as an interior monitoring system or also for monitoring the surroundings of the motor vehicle, such as for receiving signals of distance or rain sensors.

Due to the time-clocked imaging of the optical information of individual imaging systems, such information that is not continuous, but instead that is only prepared when necessary, can also be evaluated by the sensor array. For example, an image-forming imaging system can be used as jamming protection for preventing objects from becoming caught when closing an electronically controlled sunroof. This monitoring device is then only in monitoring function when the sunroof is actually being closed. Only during the time interval required for closing the sunroof is the photosensitive surface of the sensor array illuminated with optical information. The control of the individual shutter units and the evaluation of the received optical information is done by a controller.

For using this sensor array for interior monitoring, it is advantageous to position such a sensor array in the region of the inner rear-view mirror or in the region of a ceiling console, such as a ceiling module, looking backwards. Additional optical information can be supplied to the sensor array by optical waveguides as additional imaging systems, wherein individual fibers can be used to transmit light intensity or fiber bundles can be used to transmit image-forming information.

Such a photoelectronic sensor array with multi-functional optics formed by combining different imaging systems can also be arranged at another position in a motor vehicle. The optical information supplied to the sensor array can be filtered already relative to the actual information to be detected. Because the sensor array can be configured to receive a large frequency bandwidth, such a sensor array can be used simultaneously for different optical sensors.

The above objects and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention are readily apparent from the following detailed description when taken in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic representation of an optoelectronic monitoring device for a motor vehicle according to a block circuit diagram;

FIG. 2 illustrates the monitoring device of FIG. 1 during reception of optical information of one of the used imaging systems;

FIG. 3 illustrates a schematic layout of another optoelectronic monitoring device; and

FIG. 4 illustrates an optoelectronic monitoring device used as a rain sensor for a motor vehicle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

An optoelectronic monitoring device 1 in accordance with the present invention includes a camera sensor (sensor array) 2 having a photosensitive surface 3 where several imaging systems AS1-AS3 image the optical information prepared by these imaging systems AS1-AS3. Imaging system AS1 includes an imaging unit having a convex lens 4. Imaging systems AS2 and AS3 are similar image-forming systems, which guide the image information by means of fiber bundles 5 and 6 to camera sensor 2. The camera-side ends of fiber bundles 5 and 6 are convex for better imaging of the prepared image information. Likewise, a lens is allocated to the input-side end of fiber bundles 5 and 6.

Imaging systems AS1 and AS3 illuminate the same region of photosensitive surface 3 of camera sensor 2. Imaging system AS2 illuminates only a portion of the sensor region illuminated by imaging systems AS1 and AS3.

A shutter unit 7 is inserted in the beam path of imaging systems AS1-AS3, and this shutter unit is segmented in a number of shutter fields V1-V3 that corresponds to the number of imaging systems AS1-AS3. Shutter unit 7 is designed as a liquid-crystal shutter with shutter fields V1-V3 that can be switched individually and independently of each other electrically between their light-transmitting and light-blocking positions.

The clocked dependent control of shutter fields V1-V3 of shutter unit 7 is done by a microprocessor 8 that is connected to the shutter unit by a control line 9. The outputs of camera sensor 2 are further connected to microprocessor 8. Depending on the received optical information, microprocessor 8 is also used for control of different actuators 10, 11, 12. Microprocessor 8 can also receive additional parameters necessary for evaluating the optical information. Microprocessor 8 can also receive additional information for control of shutter unit 7. This additional information received by microprocessor 8 is indicated by the term “INFO” in FIG. 1.

FIG. 2 shows monitoring device 1 of FIG. 1 during illumination of photosensitive surface 3 of camera sensor 2 by imaging system AS1. Shutter field V1 of shutter unit 7 allocated to imaging system AS1 is in its light-transmitting mode. In contrast, the two additional shutter fields V2 and V3 of imaging systems AS2 and AS3 are in their light-blocking mode. Through corresponding control by microprocessor 8, either by time according to a predetermined clock or when necessary, shutter fields V1 and V3 are set for light transmission and the other shutter fields are switched to a light-blocking position, respectively.

According to a layout form, another optoelectronic monitoring device 13 is shown schematically in FIG. 3. Monitoring device 13 is configured like monitoring device 1, wherein in contrast with monitoring device 1 of FIGS. 1 and 2, monitoring device 13 includes six imaging systems AS4-AS9. These imaging systems AS4-AS9 can be image-forming systems, e.g., the imaging systems AS4-AS5 and AS8, and light-transmitting systems, such as the imaging systems AS7 and AS9. A shutter field V4-V9 in a shutter unit 14 is allocated to each imaging system, and these shutter fields V4-V9 can be controlled independently of each other. In particular, shutter fields V4 and V5, which partially overlap, should be pointed out. Such overlap can be provided when imaging systems AS4 and AS5 allocated to these shutter fields V4 and V5, respectively, are not simultaneously imaged on the photosensitive surface of camera sensor 15. The common shutter field region is correspondingly added, on the one hand, to shutter field V4, and on the other hand, to shutter field V5.

To enhance the imaging systems that supply such a device, the surface of the shutter unit facing the camera sensor can be coated with a light-reflecting layer that is formed, e.g., so that the imaging systems can image on the photosensitive surface of the camera sensor, and the optical information from the imaging systems is reflected from this deposited bottom side of the shutter unit. An individual shutter unit is also allocated to each of these additional imaging systems. The deposition on the bottom side of the shutter unit is formed so that light transmitted from above can pass through the coating.

In an expansion of such a configuration, the top side of the shutter unit facing the photosensitive surface of the camera sensor is coated overall or also in segments with an electrochromic layer, so that through corresponding control of the electrochromic segments, the reflective properties can be obtained. Thus, this layer or these segments serve both for light guidance and also as a shutter. Such a shutter unit is advantageously designed with multiple layers, wherein there is a shutter unit plane for the transmitted light beam paths and the additional shutter unit plane for the optical information guided by reflection to the camera sensor.

FIG. 4 shows another monitoring device 16 that is arranged as a rain sensor for looking at three different windshield sections A1, A2, and A3. The viewed windshield sections A1-A3 are components of different fields of vision, wherein the primary field of vision of the driver is indicated by the reference symbol G1, the primary field of vision of the passenger is indicated by the reference symbol G2, and the secondary field of vision between the two fields of vision G1 and G2 is indicated by the reference symbol G3. A detection unit 17 includes three imaging units that are each arranged to view one of the windshield sections A1, A2, or A3. The imaging units image the corresponding windshield section A1, A2, or A3 on the photosensitive surface of a camera sensor that is common for all of the imaging units. In the beam path of each imaging unit there is a light switch so that the camera sensor can be illuminated selectively by one of the three imaging units. A liquid-crystal shutter segmented in three parts is used as the light switch.

Thus it is apparent that there has been provided, in accordance with the present invention, an optoelectronic monitoring device for a motor vehicle that fully satisfies the objects, aims, and advantages set forth above. While the present invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments thereof, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications, and variations as fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims.

Classifications
U.S. Classification340/602
International ClassificationG01V8/10, B60S1/08, G01N21/84, G01N21/17
Cooperative ClassificationB60S1/0844, B60S1/0822
European ClassificationB60S1/08F2, B60S1/08F2D8
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
4 Feb 2014FPExpired due to failure to pay maintenance fee
Effective date: 20131213
13 Dec 2013LAPSLapse for failure to pay maintenance fees
26 Jul 2013REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
13 May 2009FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
8 Jan 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: LEOPOLD KOSTAL GMBH & CO. KG., GERMANY
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:MINDL, DR. ANTON;BLASING, FRANK;WEBER, THOMAS;REEL/FRAME:012449/0386;SIGNING DATES FROM 20010926 TO 20010927